Monday, August 12, 2013

Hotel Bar as Omnitopia

In his Business Week essay "The Seductive Allure of the Hotel Bar," Geoff Dyer offers a useful distinction between a hotel bar and a bar bar. The latter is prototyped by one's neighborhood hangout, a locale possessing a unique time, place, and character. The hotel bar, in contrast, offers omnitopian qualities that warrant a certain degree of appreciation. After all, "the essence of the hotel bar is that it doesn’t matter which one you are in -- or where."

Initially Dyer notes that the hotel bar functions as an enclave, one that may offer a commanding view of the city one never comes to know, or at least a bunker to protect a similar brand of indifference. Thereafter he describes the appeal of the hotel bar's ephemerality: "The clientele of the hotel bar is transitory. But everyone likes to feel at home in a city they are visiting, so the hotel bar becomes their local for a couple of nights."

To this free-zone drift strangers, Dyer explains, folks more open to peak experiences because they are far from home yet near their rooms. The essay concludes with commentary on the hotel bar's gift of anonymity and concomitant potential of romantic intrigue, a pleasure difficult to find in a place "where everybody knows your name."

My favorite part of this piece is Dyer's account of the hotel bar's freedom from local restrictions (particularly those in the United Kingdom):
"In the late 1970s, I experienced the full oppressive weight of the licensing laws: the dread certainty that however good a time you were having it had to come to an end at 11:00 prompt—unless you were a guest in a hotel. This gave hotel bars, even those in England, the exotic attraction of abroad. To drink in a hotel bar was to be permitted to live like an outlaw, to be granted immunity. A hotel bar was a place from which you could not be extradited and sent back to the restricted world of pub opening hours… If pub life is defined by the hated call of 'Time,' hotel bars are places where there is no time."
This piece, certainly not intended as an exegesis on a scholarly conceit like omnitopia, nonetheless serves up an example of the kind of prose that I'd like to practice more often.

Read the essay: The Seductive Allure of the Hotel Bar:

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